This week I am honored to have my first international guest - Virginia Lowe of Australia. She has built a career around what she loves...books, particularly children's books. Inspirational story, indeed! (Isn't that a great and telling photo?)
1. What do you do? (career wise - whatever you want to share)
I am the proprietor of Create a Kids’ Book, a manuscript assessment (critique) service, which works specifically with children’s books. I started it thirteen years ago, and there still does not seem to be an agency anywhere in the English speaking world, that is only for children’s books. As well as advice on style- and copy-editing on manuscripts (written for toddlers up to young adult), we hold e-courses on creating both picture books (text with or without illustrations) and junior and young adult novels. The tutor gives feedback on each of the exercises – effectively mentoring the author through the process. There are also monthly workshops and a free e-bulletin. There is an American branch as well.
I am fortunate because both my business and my book feed into each other. Although they are not exactly on the same topic, both are relevant. Details of both book and business can be found on www.createakidsbook.com.au.
2. How did you prepare for this career? (formal and informal education, books, workshops?)
I was a children’s librarian at first then lectured on children’s literature and English at university. I did not begin university until after this (I was 38), and went on from a BA (Hons) to an MA, and a little later a PhD. During the library course (before university) I had met and been enchanted by Books Before Five by Dorothy Neil White – a librarian who had made notes on her daughter’s book contacts. I decided I would keep a similar record when I had children, and I did, for both my son and daughter. I kept the record regularly for about thirteen years, over 6000 handwritten pages. I used this for my PhD thesis, and later again as the basis of my book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two children tell (Routledge 2007). The book covers the years from birth to eight.
Later I was judge for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s annual Book of the Year Award, and convenor of the Crichton Award for first time illustrators, and it was on the strength of this, as well as the thesis, that I went on to found the business.
3. Besides living according to the values of creativity and independence, what other values are you honouring by following this path?
The business helps others to write for children, which is not only increasing the quality of manuscripts presented to the publishers and ultimately available to children, but is also good for the authors as they learn to write to their full potential in their specific genre.
With the book, I hope to convince people not to underestimate infants and young children, to expose them to many books starting in infancy, and to actually read the words (rather than just talking about the pictures). It has useful examples that professionals (librarians, kindergarten teachers ... ) can use when convincing others of the value of books with the very young.
I guess my current challenge is finding enough time for everything. Of course working from home, and on something you enjoy doing, means that you don’t take much time off. Fortunately dear John (retired) looks after the house, cooking, washing etc. We garden together, and walk, but not as often as we should. I tend to get up, sit down at the computer, and leave it at about 12 at night.
4. What struggles or challenges do you face, if any?
Finding time to write the academic papers that I want to write (partly as publicity for my book) and also to get back to my novel, are challenges too).
5. Can you give some advice to folks who would like to do what you do?
Well, I have a unique set of life-experiences which enables me to successfully run the business (many children’s books that have come through us have gone on to be published commercially).
I couldn’t advise anyone to take up my specific career path, but just bear in mind that all your experiences may well be leading you somewhere that you cannot predict, and if you are a flexible thinker, and make use of all your skills and life-experience, you can’t be sure what exactly-right job will come your way (or else you will see your way through to create).
If you are interested in keeping a similar parent-observer diary of your children, just persist at it, and eventually it may, like mine, turn into a valuable study for other people to use (as mine has). Someone recently referred to my two as ‘everychild’ because they stand for all those children whose mothers started a complete developmental record, but didn’t keep it up for very long! Anyone interested in how a love of books begins, and the cognitive development of young children, will enjoy my book.